How All the Music, Books and Movies Formats Can Empty Our Wallets

by Thursday Bram · 6 comments

Finding new movies on VHS is becoming pretty difficult. It’s becoming a somewhat obsolete format. Sure, you can still find the occasional VHS player and tapes — Amazon even sells a few. But most players are actually combined with DVD players at this point. Most of us with any VHS tapes are coming to a point where we’ll have to buy a new copy of the same movie on DVD (or Blu-Ray or some other digital format) or convert the tapes ourselves. Every time a new format rolls out, money comes out of our pockets. No media is safe — some people are already feeling a need to replace printed books with ebooks.

New Formats Are Dangerous to Our Wallets

When some company rolls out a new format, it’s tempting to jump on board immediately. Higher definition, better quality sound, a thousand books in a format you can carry at once: all of these are tempting features that make it sound reasonable to reach for our wallets. But that new format is guaranteed to cost plenty of money. If you do things the way the creators of a new technology want you to, you have to pay for some new device upfront. That could be something that hooks up to your television — and requires special adapters — or some software or a variety of other combination.

Next, you have to start buying media in that format. That doesn’t just mean new movies or books or music as they come out, either. Most of us feel the need to move the media we already own over to that new format. That often means re-purchasing your media, unless you have the tools and time to convert from one format to another.

And if you’re an early adopter, you’re gambling that your format will be around at least long enough for you to get some use out of it. Remember Betamax?

The Problem of Proprietary Formats

We don’t always have the option of converting our old media to new formats. Copying a DVD onto your computer, for instance, is generally considered illegal. All you own, in the case of proprietary formats, is the plastic disc your media came from. The reality is you rarely own the actual copy of the movie or music or other media you thought you were buying. That makes converting from one format to another that much more difficult. The legality of the situation is troubling, at best: the same companies selling you media and the tools to view or listen to it are the ones that are putting you in a position where you have to buy a new copy a few years down the line to continue enjoying it.

There’s no easy solution to this sort of situation. Being frugal about what we choose to spend our money on certainly helps, but most people find that spending money on entertainment is part of enjoying life. We each have to make financial decisions on our own. All we can do is keep the cost of changing formats in mind.

Editor’s Question: I never really understood why many people keep a movie collection because I’ve never actually met someone who keeps buying AND actually watches them. With all the cable channels regularly playing older movies these days in addition to services like Netflix, why bother paying so much for what essentially becomes wall art?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • i believe in buying movies. at-least they are better from daily bargaining.

  • Steve Jobs says:

    It pays to have a movie collection. I once have a movie collection on VHS format and before my VHS player went to the pit, my kids kept on playing it. Having a movie collection gives you freedom to play it over and over again especially for those blockbuster movies. But I learned my lesson, my VHS movie collection is now obsolete and needs to be converted into the DVD format and so I bought a video adapter for my computer to convert my VHS to DVD format. It’s not unlawful as long as it is for personal use.

  • Nick D. says:

    good point, I must say that it does seem like a waste of money to have a movie collection. Redbox, netflix, etc have made it so easy to watch any movie you want.

  • Lynn says:

    I buy movies that I’ll watch again on sale. If I find myself renting a movie more than once, I just look for a bargain and buy it. I’ll also consider buying it if it’s something I watch every time it comes on TV, though I don’t really watch much TV. Darn Veronica Mars, sucking me in…and darn that I’m on the last episode ever.

    Anyway. I spent $5 or less on movies, and I buy DVDs (though we own a VCR as my husband converts VHS to digital). We bought the Matrix trilogy, some girly romances, The Secret Garden/Little Princess combo and a few more. There are some, like The Dark Knight, that were gifts and we paid full price for, but my husband and I are comic book geeks. 🙂

    Long answer short: some stuff you *will* watch again and can’t guarantee you can stream it whenever.

  • marci357 says:

    Q ~~Editor’s Question: I never really understood why many people keep a movie collection because I’ve never actually met someone who keeps buying AND actually watches them. With all the cable channels regularly playing older movies these days in addition to services like Netflix, why bother paying so much for what essentially becomes wall art?

    A~~ You are assuming that one has cable and or a service like Netflix…. If one has neither, then a movie collection, at 50 cents – $1 each at garage sales is a much cheaper way to go 🙂

    • MoneyNing says:

      Yes, but most people buy them at $10 (and at $20, $30 collector’s version that they never watch too).

      Then after a decade or so, they resell it on garage sales for $1 or 50 cents…………………….

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